Notes: Durbin battles back from injury
Ortiz's visa problems solved, expected in camp on Friday
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Perfect opportunities come few and far between for players and that's something pitcher J.D. Durbin knows all too well.Having battled through injuries and other setbacks in his career, the chance was finally there for Durbin last summer to show the Twins that he was indeed back on track. Durbin was off to a 4-3 start with a 2.33 ERA at Triple-A Rochester and the Twins were in desperate need of pitching help. It looked like "The Real Deal" would get his opportunity to return to the Majors. Unfortunately for Durbin, fate dealt him yet another blow. Durbin awoke one morning in late June to realize something was wrong with his right arm. He had slept for part of the night with his arm dangling off the bed and when he finally got up, he couldn't bend his pitching arm. Durbin was able to get some feeling back and even long-tossed later that afternoon, but during his start two days later, he realized something was seriously wrong. "I was throwing great -- struck out three out of five guys I faced -- but my velocity was 85 to 88 [miles per hour] and there was a sharp pain in my biceps every time I threw," Durbin said. "I ended up pulling myself from the game and didn't pitch the rest of the year." Durbin was diagnosed with nerve damage in his right biceps and was shut down from throwing until Jan. 17. Instead of being called up, Durbin had to watch as other young pitchers were thrown into the playoff race. "It was tough," Durbin said. "I was pitching so good and something freak like that happens. All of these guys [who got called up] deserved shots but I felt it was my time to contribute to the team, especially throwing the way I was throwing." Now, Durbin is in the process of coming back from the injury and it coincides with a last chance of sorts for him. Durbin, who turns 25 on Saturday, enters this spring without any options left and knows that if he doesn't make the club, his career with the Twins is likely over. Though Durbin feels his chances to earn a starting nod are limited, there is also an opening in the bullpen. With Willie Eyre gone, the Twins could possibly use another long reliever and it seems that Durbin could provide that, if he proves to be healthy and shows the type of stuff that he had before the arm troubles began. "You're talking about a great arm [that can] blow people away," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If he's healthy and gets out there throwing he could compete for one of the starter's jobs. Once we get him going, that's when we'll see how he fits. Good arms are hard to find and he's got a good arm."
Progress made: Durbin took another step toward being ready to compete for a roster spot on Wednesday as he threw off the mound for the first time since being shut down. Durbin threw a tennis shoe bullpen and the first session took place without any problems."He felt good," Gardenhire said. "Now, we'll go from there." Waiting game: The Twins are still anxiously awaiting Ramon Ortiz's debut at camp. Wednesday marked the third straight day of camp without the pitcher, but that delay should end soon. Twins general manager Terry Ryan said that Ortiz got his visa approved and will be arriving in Fort Myers sometime on Thursday. It appears doubtful that he will make it in time for the workout but he should be in camp on Friday. Knowing that it was a veteran pitcher and not a rookie who was delayed didn't seem to make much of a difference to Gardenhire. "It's never good," Gardenhire said of players missing days of camp. "It just is what it is. There are certain things you can control and certain things you can't. And we can't control this." One reason the Twins want Ortiz to arrive as soon as possible is because there is a schedule of start dates for the Grapefruit League in place for the pitchers. The concern regarding that schedule isn't about a lack of arms to take the place of Ortiz, as the team has 30 pitchers in camp, but rather to mess with the set schedule. "We don't want him to get too far behind," Gardenhire said. "We've set a date for him to start one of the first games in Spring Training and if he doesn't get into camp and get going then we're obviously going to have to back it up. You start changing your programs and that's the only thing you worry about." Losing Torii? The discussion of whether Torii Hunter will be with the Twins beyond this season has already started. But one person that doesn't want to think much about the possibility that Hunter won't be back is Gardenhire. "I won't even go there," Gardenhire said. "I don't want to think about it and I'm not going to think about it. I'm just going to enjoy the moment and hope that everything gets taken care of. "They deal with all the contract stuff upstairs and I deal with the baseball team right here, getting them ready for this year. I'm not oblivious to it. I know it's out there and what's going on but my mindset is not towards even thinking about it. Everyone knows what Torii means to myself and this organization. Hopefully things will work out with that upstairs, but we'll just focus on baseball." Twins tidbits: Jeff Cirillo arrived at camp on Wednesday morning and joked around with some of the other Twins infielders. The only position players from last year's squad left to report are Luis Castillo and Luis Rodriguez. ... The Twins' annual game with Concordia College is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27. It's the day before Grapefruit League action is set to begin. Quotable: "I view him as being one of our starters. I expect him to step up and take one of those jobs. Whether it happens or not is totally up to him. When we signed him, my thought was that he was going to step up and take one of those jobs" -- Gardenhire on Sidney Ponson, who is competing for a spot on the pitching staff
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.